Texas Instruments validates transistor material

Texas Instruments claims to have proved that the material it will use as the gate dielectric in its future transistors is both...

Texas Instruments claims to have proved that the material it will use as the gate dielectric in its future transistors is both thermally and electrically stable.

Last year, the company said it would use hafnium silicon oxynitride (HfSiON) to build gate dielectrics in transistors built using next-generation process technologies. Since then, some researchers have raised concerns about the long-term reliability of a similar material known as hafnium dioxide, which is an element with a high "k" value that is ideal for separating electrical fields.

Texas Instruments compared the properties of hafnium dioxides with HfSiON, and found HfSiON to be more electrically stable than hafnium dioxide.

Transistors with 's high-k material consume much less power than existing transistors with silicon dioxide gate dielectrics while maintaining the mobility levels of silicon, said Ajit Shanware, a member of Texas Instruments' technical staff. Mobility is a measure of how fast current moves through a material.

Most chip companies use silicon dioxide as a gate dielectric in chips built on 0.13-micron process technologies, and in their next-generation chips built on 90 nanometer process technologies, which will appear next year.

As the industry scales down to the 45 nanometer level, which is forecast to take place around 2007, materials with higher dielectric constants, or k-values, will be needed.

Chip designers had been drawn to hafnium-based materials because of its high dielectric constant. But hafnium-based materials had been thought to have much less mobility than silicon dioxide, which would impede transistor performance, Shanware said. Designers were also unsure about the proportions in which hafnium should be used with other materials.

Texas Instruments' findings clear the way for the company to implement the material on samples of its 65-nanometer process technology, with full implementation coming on its 45-nanometer technology, which is expected to roll out its 45-nanometer technology in 2007.

Toshiba, among other companies, also intends to use HfSiON for next-generation gate dielectrics. Intel recently announced its plans to switch to an unspecified high-k material for its gate dielectrics at the 45 nanometer level.

Tom Krazit writes for IDG News Service

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